The Portland Press Herald

The lawmaker who spearheaded the state’s new whitetail deer plan will take over as executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, replaces former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who was serving as interim director since January, but decided to step down.

He will be the alliance’s third leader in the nine months since George Smith resigned, but Dunlap and state officials say Trahan has the legislative and outdoor experience needed to strengthen and grow the organization, which has a membership of 14,000.

“For the first time in months, I feel great about where we are,” said Dunlap Friday, a day after the SAM board approved Trahan taking over in September.

Dunlap said Trahan’s vast legislative experience, particularly his work on the state’s new deer plan, makes him the perfect SAM director at this time.

“He’s not taking this on lightly. It’s a lifetime passion with him. In that regard, it’s only natural that he would be at the forefront of the whitetail deer restoration,” Dunlap said.

Last fall, Trahan gathered together a group of outdoors groups to work on a plan to bring back the state’s whitetail herd, which decreased dramatically after two hard winters in 2008 and 2009.

That working group included officials from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the resulting plan was used in a bill Trahan helped draft. The resulting legislative resolve requires the state to fund enhancements to whitetail habitat and the work of controlling predators. It also requires the department to report back to the Legislature on the whitetail herd’s status, keeping the issue at the forefront of conservation concerns.

The department’s deputy commissioner, Andrea Erskine, said Friday Trahan’s tireless work spearheading the deer plan underscores his deep interest in Maine’s natural resources. She said it also serves as an example of his ability to work well with many different outdoor groups.

“He definitely was the one who got it started, and brought the department in. That’s kind of key. That’s why we’re looking forward to working with him. He didn’t tell the department what to do. He brought us into the process of putting this plan in place,” said Erskine, a 26-year employee of the department.

Trahan served on the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Advisory Council for four years before serving on the Legislature’s Joint Committee of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for 11 years.

He is the 20-year president of the Lincoln County Fish and Game Club and Trahan said it is that experience that will benefit him in increasing SAM’s membership.

His success with youth outdoor programs in the club will be copied at SAM, he said.

“I rebuilt the membership and restored our club through youth events that bring families together in the outdoors. We have three fishing derbies a year now. It really revived our club,” said Trahan, 48. “In modern times, we need a special effort to get kids outside and fishing and hunting. SAM has to adapt and cope with that, and I look forward to doing that. It will reflect a new direction.”

SAM has an operating budget of $350,000 to $400,000. And Dunlap said the work he did guiding SAM the past several months already has created a stronger organization.

Immediately after he took over, Dunlap said SAM hired an operations manager, the way bills were paid was revamped, and the administrative work involved with membership and fund raising was streamlined. It’s the kind of work he did for six years as Maine’s secretary of state, and Dunlap said the alliance benefited from the changes made. He said the stage is now set for Trahan to grow the organization.

“Our financial manager now is very careful. We are where we need to be. David won’t have to worry about (the administrative work),” said Dunlap, who will continue as a SAM board member.

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